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Truck Accidents Caused by Drivers Forced to Work Long Hours with Little Pay

USA Today conducted a comprehensive investigation into a subset of the trucking industry in the United States – port truckers employed by trucking companies who transport goods across the country on behalf of many of the largest retailers in the United States, including Target, Home Depot, and Costco. Many of the trucking companies studied were based in California and employed low-income immigrants, some of which speak little to no English. Journalists reviewed testimony in labor dispute cases, contracts, and statements made by over 300 truck drivers. The research revealed that many truckers are overworked and in debt, both of which ultimately affect their driving performance.

One common theme showed that these companies used tactics to force drivers to finance their trucks themselves, even if it meant taking out debt that they could not afford. Knowing that the driver was over-extended in debt, executives from the company exerted that leverage on the employees to work longer shifts. If a trucker quit, the company could keep the truck, meaning the driver lost all of the money he or she had put into owning it. The company would then simply lease the truck to the next driver hired.

In addition to leasing fees, truckers still had to pay for gas and maintenance, among others. After deducting for leasing expenses and other payments, some drivers were barely making a profit at all. One trucker reported his take-home pay at a mere $0.67 per week. If the trucker was fired, the company would continue to charge the driver for payments owed under the contract. Court filings revealed many high-profile corporations were charged with labor violations, including Target, Hewlett-Packard, Home Depot, Hasbro, UPS, Goodyear, and Costco.

Other discouraging findings were reported as part of the investigation. Companies would force drivers to work shifts up to 20 hours per day by threatening to fire them or take the truck away if the driver did not comply. A trucker testified that when he tried to return the truck one day, the parking lot was locked and a manager told him he was not allowed to go home. Between 2013 and 2015, hundreds of California truck drivers were involved in truck accidents that led to more than 30 fatalities.

These findings suggest that drivers were essentially forced to break federal regulations regarding hours of service. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) governs the trucking industry in the United States with the goal of reducing accidents, injuries, and fatalities concerning 18-wheelers, semi-trucks, and other large trucks and buses. Interstate truck drivers and their employers must follow these regulations. Violators can be fined and found liable for any resulting accidents or injuries caused by driving while fatigued. Per the FMCSA, property-carrying truck drivers may only drive a maximum of 11 hours after being off duty for 10 consecutive hours.

Driver fatigue is a major issue in the United States. Drivers who are tired are more likely to get into an accident, as they suffer from impaired reaction times. A Large Truck Causation Study conducted by the FMCSA found that 13% of truckers involved in crashes were found to have been tired at the time of the crash. Truck driver fatigue can be caused by driving late at night, working shifts involving odd hours, or driving for many consecutive hours with little to no breaks.

If you were injured in a truck accident, it will be critical to investigate the truck driver’s logbooks to confirm violations of federal hours of service rules. Many times, truck drivers choose to disregard them, especially if they are paid by the mile or load. Other times, it will be a trucking company that encourages or forces its drivers to disregard these hours of service. In this particular situation, trucking companies can be held directly liable for an accident caused by the fatigued driver.

To recover all forms of compensation to which you may be entitled following a wreck with an 18-wheeler, it is important to have an experienced trucking accident lawyer on your side who can investigate the wreck and conduct the necessary discovery. Call Nahon, Saharovich & Trotz at 800-529-4004 or complete our online form for a free consultation.